A Quick Guide To Tripods & Tripod Alternatives

When you’re new to photography, whether you’re using an old film camera or a modern digital SLR (a.k.a. “DSLR”), for a time, you may be content just to roam about with camera in hand. Many modern DSLR camera lenses have built-in optical image stabilization, which helps counteract the movement you may inadvertently introduce, despite trying your best to keep your movements under control while taking your photos.

For some situations, you can often get away without using a tripod and, in fact, having your camera mounted on a tripod can inhibit how creatively you use the camera to create your photographic masterpieces.

However, there are situations when a tripod is invaluable. I will cover some typical example situations, and then discuss your options when it comes to buying a tripod – whether it be a more traditional aluminium or carbon fiber tripod, or one of the alternative tripods, such as a Gorilla Pod, an Ultra Pod II, or a camera beanbag.

Why You Might Want To Buy A Tripod

For every situation where a tripod is needed, it is required in order to avoid introducing unwanted vibration into your camera, particularly during long exposure photographs, where the camera’s shutter will be open for a second or more, during which time any vibration will be picked up and, most likely, be represented as blurring of your subject(s) in your final image. Landscape photography is one such sub niche that always benefits from having a good quality tripod.

Another area of photography where you will want a tripod is if you’re exploring light painting – this time, not only are you going to be using longer exposure times, you’re also going to need to rest your camera on a stable platform, while you either stand off to one side with a flashlight, or go into the frame, painting light into your scene. Once again, a tripod is your friend for this task.

Anytime you need to keep your camera at a specific angle – whether it be absolutely horizontal (such as for landscape photos) or vertical (such as for portrait photographs of people) or any other angle in between – a tripod is the best tool for the job. Being human, there’s only so long you can hold your camera in a totally still position, before you start to fatigue… and that’s when you’ll wish you’d had a tripod to take the strain. Providing you have a solid tripod that can comfortably hold the weight of your DSLR camera (and possibly and external flash on top), then it will keep your equipment at the angle you want it, for as long as you need it.

It’s good to have a tripod when doing product photography – many times, I will take the photos without using a tripod. However, it can quickly become a chore to hold a bulky DSLR, and that’s when I’m glad I’ve got the option to stick the camera on the tripod, so I can just focus on arranging the products to get the best shot.

Types Of Camera Tripod

Okay, so now that you’re hopefully coming around to the benefits of having a tripod, the next issue is which type of tripod to get?

Nowadays, the way I see it, there are really two types of tripod:

  1. Traditional Tripods
  2. Alternative Tripods

Tripod Type 1. Traditional Tripods

These have three legs (hence the term “tri”pod) stacked in sections that collapse down on top of one another, to keep the tripods compact when storing them or when travelling with them. When you are using these tripods, the legs can be eased out to a required length and then locked in place, for the specific height you need. Locking the legs is either done via a spin-lock system (where you rotate rings to lock the legs so your tripod won’t collapse unceremoniously to the floor), while others have quick-release locks (with flaps that can be flicked open or securely closed).

One of the key decisions you’ll need to make is whether to get an aluminium tripod, or one constructed from carbon fiber. Aluminium tripods will be cheaper to buy than carbon fiber versions, but the carbon fiber tripods will weigh less, making them the better option for those who like to go trekking with their camera gear and want to take a tripod along as well.

Just remember, because carbon fiber tripods are so lightweight, you’re likely to need something to weigh it down, so that the wind won’t introduce unwanted vibrations – good carbon fiber tripods, such as the 3LT “Brian”, which I own, have a hook underneath the central column, onto which you can sling your camera bag, for added ballast.

Tripod Type 2. Alternative Tripods

There are three different types of alternative tripod that may interest you; they have their pros and cons, compared with a traditional tripod, and I have one of each.

The first offering is the Gorilla Pod. The benefit of this style of tripod, over a more traditional tripod, is that, due to the unique construction of the legs, the Gorilla Pod is better suited to placing on all sorts of awkward and uneven surfaces – such as, rocks, grassy hillsides, etc. You can also wrap the three legs around tree branches, posts, railings and the like, to place your Gorilla Pod at all sorts of different heights… providing there are suitable objects available to do this. That’s one of the advantages of a standard tripod: you’ll generally have enough height variations (by expanding or contracting the legs), to set up your camera at a fairly decent height. One thing you should be aware of are the subtle variations of Gorilla Pods, as one type will only fit the mounting bracket of larger DSLR cameras. I have both a Panasonic FZ1000 (bridge camera) and a Panasonic GH4 (DSLR, but a micro four thirds camera, so smaller than larger, full frame DSLR, such as Canon’s 1DX) and neither of them will fit on the original Gorilla Pod. I had to purchase a Gorilla Pod Zoom, which fit both cameras.

The next option is the Ultra Pod II. This is the smallest tripod I’ve ever owned. It has three solid plastic legs, which are NOT height adjustable. However, what it lacks in height, it makes up for in both portability and versatility. This thing is super lightweight, so it’s great for hiking about with. But, its party-piece trick is the integrated Velcro strap, which allows you to secure the tripod to tree branches, gates, sign posts, and the like. The one slight downside is the Velcro strap isn’t all that long, so you’re limited to attaching it to things not much larger than the size of a thick man’s wrist. However, it’s so compact and lightweight, and is so brilliantly versatile, that it has a permanent place in my camera backpack; it comes with me wherever I go with my camera gear and, if I think I can get away with it, I will prefer just this one Ultra Pod II (and maybe my Gorilla Pod, which is also similarly compact, but is superior to the Ultra Pod II on uneven and awkward surfaces), than lugging about a bulkier, more traditional tripod.

The final tripod alternative is not actually a tripod, at all… it’s a camera beanbag. I have a 1kg variety (though different weights and sizes are available) and it’s great that you don’t have to fiddle about screwing in your camera… just plonk down the beanbag, mush your camera down on top of it so that you get it level (okay, so there is still a little bit of fiddling), and then you’re ready to start snapping. You can also put it on top of your car, for instance, and not have to worry about scratching the paintwork.

So, if you had to buy just ONE tripod for a spotting scope, which would it be? I’m tempted to say the Ultra Pod II, because you don’t have to fiddle about with adjusting multiple leg sections before you’re ready to start photographing stuff. However, as much as I really like that lightweight tripod alternative, you can’t beat the height adjustability of a traditional tripod. If you find yourself wanting to take it out and about, and if your budget can stretch to it, a quality carbon fiber tripod is probably the one to go for. However, if you have extra cash going spare, I do find it great to be able to choose between using my Gorilla Pod Zoom, Ultra Pod II, and my more traditional carbon fiber 3LT Brian tripod – if I need the height, I will use the 3LT; if I think I can get away without this larger tripod, when going out with my camera gear, I do prefer to travel light and take both the Ultra Pod II and Gorilla Pod Zoom, which give me enough options to find a suitable solution for where to place my camera to get some interesting shots.

Family Photography Tips

Family photography may at first glance appear to be one of the easiest genres to ‘get right’ but that very familiarity with your subjects can present problems for you as a photographer. In order to make good and impactful photographs you have to be distant from your subject matter yet be empathic.

With this in mind you will be identified by members of your own family as ‘the official photographer’ due to your obvious interest in photography. family get together’s will present themselves as perfect opportunities to capture family portraits whether individual or a large generational picture.

However, when you get out your camera, some of your family may groan and run for the door to escape. But don’t give up! Getting a fantastic picture of your family doesn’t have to be a painful experience for either you or your subjects, especially if you put a few simple photo tips to use.

Posing Techniques When Photographing Your Family

Firstly, try to position everyone so that their heads are close together. This usually helps to make everyone look extra friendly and happy. You should, if possible also try to plan what your family are wearing for their photograph. This may not always be possible for a big family gathering but if you could advise your family before the day to wear bright solid colours rather than vivid patterns which pull the viewers eyes away from the subject.

For a Great Family Picture, Keep Things Simple

Try to put all your creative effort into photographing the one main subject ie. the group. You can take lots of extra informal shots of your family as the mill around. Take plenty of additional photos, so don’t worry about including everybody and everything in one picture. If you put too much stuff in your photo it will look messy. The best option is to keep things as simple as possible. Try to crop as you frame, meaning don’t have lots of extraneous information cluttering up the viewfinder. You will soon get the hang of this. You just need to be aware of your field of view and not be sloppy allowing trees and buildings etc to dominate the scene rather than the actual subject matter.

If you are photographing a number of different family members in a group they in essence become one subject. Therefore ensure you crop tightly and emphasise their relationship with each other rather than have lots of space between them which will detract from the impact of them as a subject. Don’t be afraid to ‘direct’ your family. This may mean getting them to move in closer or put an arm around each other. Often people will happily take to direction, more so than you may think.

And Lastly… Think about the ambient light when photographing your family

As photographers we know the best light is either early morning or late afternoon or evening. This is when richness and depth of light is available so if possible try to get your family together for a group shot at these times of day. This is of course not always possible due to the event they are attending itself such as a christening or wedding. But, the principle still stands. If this is not possible then try to get them all into bright open shade or light just inside a doorway or a window. You may need to think about ‘fill in flash’ to avoid unsightly shadows.

The best advice when thinking of photographing a family group is to have a balance, if possible between being relaxed and directing their attention. This is an art but it is not impossible!

Birdfeeders – A Mixed Blessing

A birdfeeder can be a great addition to any backyard. Most regions are host to many species of birds, and their plumage and behaviour can be a joy to even the most casual observer. Attention to placement and the right feed can bring hundreds of birds to your feeder annually.

However, in recent years there has arisen a debate over how feeders affect the bird population. Many ornithologists have long maintained that constant feeding can cause dependency. If many feeders in an area contain the same food, population density of certain species can spike, altering the ecosystem for other varieties of birds.

Another point to consider is that birdfeeders placed close to a house pose several hazards to our feathered friends. Millions of birds are killed every year by flying into windows. Granted, most of those are birds that fly into tall buildings, but many are killed by flying into pictures and patio doors. This is easily prevented by decals of owls or other predators applied to the glass.

One of the greatest risks to birds close to your residence is your family pet. Cats are naturally great bird hunters. You can be serving Filet Mignon in your feeder but if the birds know you have a cat, they’ll stay away.

Weedkillers and fertilizers are also hazardous to birds. Nesting birds run the risk of returning to the nest after exposure and introducing these poisonous compounds to their chicks.

Although they are not a risk to the birds, squirrels are quite a nuisance around a birdfeeder. They can be quite resourceful in getting to the seeds which are natural feed to them. Don’t put your feeder under a tree, since they’ll jump down on it. There are many anti-squirrel devices such as perches that collapse under the weight of any more than a bird, or barriers on the supporting pole. The squirrel’s desire for your seed is great, though.

If you decide to install a birdfeeder, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure you are doing no harm. First, change the seed regularly. Rancid or moldy seed is a health risk easily avoided.

Birds like to poop where they eat, so it is important to keep platforms, perches and the ground around the feeder clean to prevent the spread of Avian diseases.

If you can successfully address the problems that a birdfeeder can present, it certainly can be an attractive addition to your property. Just be prepared to play host to a squirrel or two!

How Much to Pay for SEO Services?

The question comes up often. Many people have been burned by SEO Services, but many have also been rewarded by SEO Services. Like any business transaction or purchase you should only spend your money when you feel comfortable. Your comfort zone should pull from various dependencies, such as how well do you know this business, how long have you been doing business with this person or entity, what is your first impression, how do you personally feel about this person or entity ability to provide this service, and how well have you done your homework.

The truth about SEO services is that it is normally not hard work, but that doesn’t mean its easy. It still takes time, dedication, effort, strategy, technique, method, skill, and experience to perform quality SEO services. Anyone can use SEO services because it is within your reach to learn, but not everyone can apply sensible strategy to make SEO work. That is why SEO engineers are needed to accomplish the almost impossible, but the question is how do you know you are making the right choice and not overpaying for SEO services?

I can honestly say for the most part SEO service providers are on the up and up who want nothing more than to do professional business and provide quality SEO services. Identifying every shady SEO service may not be possible, but I have some recommended advice which should help anyone get a fair and quality rate for SEO services.

– Set yourself a “realistic” marketing budget and goal

– Shop around

– Don’t buy until you feel comfortable

– Remember “cheap does not always mean better”

– Ask for references / referrals / portfolio

– Verify references / referrals / portfolio

– Ask for statistical growth and progress reports

Set Yourself a Realistic Marketing Budget and Goal

This simply mean do not kid yourself and think you can pay $200 and overnight you will make thousands. Instead, create a budget depending on your marketing needs, competitive industry, projected outcome, and length of time. If you are looking for your website to rank in the Top 10 search engine result page for a particular keyword or keywords then expect to pay in the thousands, often times tens of thousands, for quality, professional, and reliable SEO services, almost always depending on the competitiveness of the keyword. If you want to rank in the top 10 for the keyword “Google”, this in most cases impossible, but I am sure there are some SEO companies who will accept the challenge, but will charge in the thousands if not millions to attempt this insane marketing goal.

Shop Around

Find the most appealing SEO services in Cambridge and compare those to other competitive SEO services. Don’t settle for “cheap” or “inexpensive”, but settle for “effective” and “strategy”. Anyone can do SEO work, but not everyone can improve results using SEO services. This is because, SEO is about technique and strategy. It’s not about just throwing thousands a links around the web and sitting back waiting for the explosion. Its actually a lot more complicated than that, as it is about having strategy, technique, and competitive edge. You must find SEO services which live by this principle and can offer you the strategic road map you need for success.

Don’t Buy Until You Feel Comfortable

You should always feel comfortable with entrusting your money into an SEO service provider paws. If you have special needs such as you want to sign a contract, you want a specific pay schedule, or you have any questions, make sure you get answers and are comfortable with the projected outcome then move forward. I personally suggest getting a contract which outlines the projected outcome and any other bullet points, then also exploring the consequences or possibilities if the projected outcome is not met.

Remember “Cheap Does Not Always Mean Better”

This is a buyer beware notice. When someone offers $20 SEO services or even $200 SEO services, I would say “buyer beware”. There may be a handful of highly skilled SEO providers who can offer you SEO services at a discount or for extremely low rates, but most of the time these providers either do not know their service worth or know exactly what they are doing, but may have had a lucky streak. You will have to pay top dollar or aggressively, yet still affordable for quality, strategic, and experienced SEO services. SEO engineers is what I like to call them. These are SEO’s who understand the SEO concept, who pioneer SEO methods, and who don’t always follow the trend, but know the trends.

Most of the SEO engineers are not going to be cheap, but well worth every dollar spent. If you take into consideration other marketing and advertising platforms, such as television broadcast advertising, print advertising, large tradeshow/fair booth advertising, etc. internet marketing and search engine optimization cost peanuts compared to these other advertising methods and have a farther audience reach. SEO services can easily cost between $5,000-$25,000, it can even be much more than this, depending on your needs, but this is far more inexpensive and cheaper than other advertising platforms. So, next time you think that SEO service cost too much, think about the other methods of advertising and their rates, along with return on investment (ROI). SEO services come out on top every time when compared against these other advertising platforms.

Ask for References / Referrals / Portfolio

Any SEO service provider should be able to point you to their qualifying work. SEO service providers should be able to present you with affectionate websites which they have performed SEO work on. This can even be the SEO service provider personal website, they should be able to point you to their rankings in the search engine as well as some result driven SEO work within the site or across the web.

Verify References / Referrals / Portfolio

Verifying information is not always easy or accomplishable. You should attempt to reach out and verify what you can. If a shady SEO business was going to scam, then I am sure this is where they would start, with testimonials. I suggest verifying what you can, but don’t get overwhelmed with referrals because it may be the shady SEO business giving self praise. I actually have some good verification tips, but that’s another article all within itself.

Ask for Statistical Growth & Progress Reports

The SEO service campaign should include periodic progress/performance reports so you can track your website progress. Tracking your website progress is important in many ways. First, it tells if the SEO engineer is doing their job. Second, it tells you if the SEO methods, strategy, and technique is working or not. Third, it tells you how well the search engines are reciprocating your SEO efforts. And lastly, it tells you how much progress is being made and at what rate. All of this advanced reporting information and trend tracking can give you an overview of your website potential while giving you the opportunity to design or redesign your landing pages to increase your return on investment (ROI).

Okay, to wrap it up, just be sure you stay out of shabby internet neighborhoods and when making any online transaction, do your homework first. Also, remember “cheap does not equal better”. Think about it, would you rather pay in the thousands to one SEO company for quality SEO work, which will produce results and increase your website overall performance or would you rather pay cheap $200 to many different SEO’s who don’t ever really give you the results you deserve. If an SEO engineer can increase your website sales and exposure by 80% without your site ever reaching the top 10 search results then you still got a good deal. This is the effect of skilled and experienced SEO services. The only difference between your website and the websites in the top 10, is those websites have SEO engineers working for them who understand SEO.

Inflatable Water Slides

Backyards provide a ready-made stage for outdoor entertaining. From kid’s birthday parties to 4th of July BBQ’s there are no shortage of events that will have lots of kids looking for fun things to do. Inflatable party jumpers provide a wide selection of contests, games and races that are sure to get any crowd going but if the weather is real hot you may want to consider inflatable water slides that are exciting and offer a refreshing blast from the heat. Inflatable water slides come in a number of designer models including tube slides, front end loader slides, double slides and slides including detachable pools.

Summer parties are great but if you don’t have a pool or sprinkler then having an inflatable water slide will do just as well in keeping kids actively entertained and cool on hot days. Easy to set up and safe to use inflatable slides give kids the excitement of a thrilling ride combined with the fun splash of cool water for perfect mid-summer recreation. Whether you’re looking for a steep angle drop, wide lanes to slip down or double tubes for racing there is an inflatable slide model for all types of kid party themes. Great for kids and adults inflatable water slides will be a big hit at any backyard event.

A great feature with inflatable water slides is that everyone gets a turn. Unlike some inflatable jumpers that pit skills in competitive games that can leave some kids left out water slides are for everyone and the only skill you need is to have fun. Many water slides can also be used as dry slides so you can have an exciting ride in the fall and winter too.

Another great feature with outdoor slides is that they encourage a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle. Instead of having kids sit around playing video games and loading up on sugary foods and heavily caffeinated soft drinks outdoor water slides encourage kids to be active and create their own excitement. The exercise kids get climbing the slide and running around to do it again is a great cardiovascular workout and as long as the kids stay hydrated the fun can last all day.

What Do I Have to Do to Get a Good Massage?

If you want to make sure you get a good massage and not waste your time and money, the key is to ask the right questions.

A few questions can make the difference between bitter disappointment and massage heaven.

If you have any goals for the treatment, make them known. Make sure that your massage therapist can accommodate your goals. If for instance, you like a firmer massage and you make an appointment with somebody who’s typical massage is a light Swedish, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.

The better a massage therapist gets at a modality, the more they will pull it out of their bag of tricks. If a therapist is good at therapeutic techniques and deep tissue, they’ll usually tell you their massages are deeper or firmer. Somebody who typically does lighter work will tell you their massage is geared more toward relaxation, or they may say that they do more of a Swedish massage which is described as long, relaxing (and generally lighter) strokes.

A good tip is to talk to your therapist about their massage. You may ask them~
How would you describe your typical massage? Is it a firmer touch or a lighter massage?

You may think that asking somebody how long they’ve been doing massage therapy is a good measure of talent, and it can be, but not always. I’ve had lots of massages from long practicing massage therapists who’s massage lacked talent and/or effort. People get burned out with all kinds of jobs. Massage therapists aren’t any different. The rub is, you don’t want to end up on their table if you can help it.

A massage therapist once told me that she refused to lift any limbs anymore. She said it’s too much effort. This was from a woman who had been doing massage therapy for over 10 years. Seriously? Who wants to pay somebody good money if they can’t even be bothered to lift your arm?

Clearly, talent is not just about how long a massage therapist has been practicing, it’s much more about wanting to do your best and loving what you do. I’ve had really good massages from new graduates with great attitudes.

Talk to your massage therapist about how long they’ve been doing massage therapy, if they still enjoy it, and why. See if you can sense some joy and enthusiasm when they speak about their work.

A good massage therapist will make it their business to not only give good massages, but to get good massages.

At first, you may be wondering what this has to do with them giving you a good massage in Brighton, but it has plenty to do with it. If your massage therapist is making it their business to find out who else is really good then going out there and finding out why, chances are you’ve found a good massage therapist.

Talented massage therapists learn how to give a really good massages from getting really good massages. Lots of them.

Ask your massage therapist if they get regular massages.

If you’re going to a resort, hotel or massage clinic, you may not be able to talk to your therapist directly when you make the appointment. This is too bad, but can’t be helped. However, most times the person setting appointments will be required to know the different modalities the therapist is qualified in so that they know what appointments they can schedule.

A talented therapist will make it a priority to regularly continue their education and learn new modalities. If the therapist knows a lot of modalities, you can probably assume they believe your experience is important enough to spend time and money gaining skills and talent to make your experience better.

When booking an appointment through a scheduler, ask them if they can tell you what modalities your therapist offers or is educated in.

The Higher End Resort Spas have many highly trained therapists. Ordinarily, they have strict minimum requirements for therapists, usually beginning with several years experience and certification in several different modalities. High end Resorts very often encourage their therapists to improve their skills by paying for continuing education and regularly bringing in trainers to teach employees signature and specialty treatments. This makes your chances of getting a better trained massage therapist better than going to the local massage clinic where this kind of training is the exception.

Treating yourself to a massage at a higher end Resort Spa can really be a wonderful experience~ it’s all about being pampered. The facilities are usually nothing short of amazing, and in addition to being able to choose from several different kinds of massages, you can get waxed and scrubbed and wrapped and soaked get just about everything else you can dream of. Everybody should treat themselves to an experience of a Five Star Spa. Splurge.

If you visit one of these Spas, I suggest you plan on spending the day. Complementary with your treatment you will find many luxurious activities and amenities~ the steam, the soak, the yoga class, meditation class, the organic snacks and herbal tea, the pool…you just sort of float around all day in your robe like you’re in heaven. The only thing you might need is a good book to enjoy by the pool. I suggest you take advantage of it all, because you’ll pay for it.

To give you some idea of the typical price for a treatment at a high end Spa, for example, at The Boulders Resort and Spa in Carefree, Arizona, the price tag for their 50 minute signature massage treatment is $140 plus a 20% service charge. That’s $168 for one 50 minute massage, with includes the gratuity and the use of the facilities. And that’s the least expensive of all the massages they offer.

If you’re paying that much, you want it to be GREAT, right? Right. Ask some questions about your therapist. Tell them what your goals are. If there’s a question about the massage therapist that they don’t know the answer to, ask if they can find out and call you back. Or ask if the massage therapist can call you back.

Another way to find a great massage therapist is to find somebody who’s been in private practice or in business for themselves. If an independent massage therapist has built a clientele and has a private practice, chances are there’s a good reason. A good massage brings return clients. Usually you can find a really good therapist in business for themselves for less than half of what you pay at a resort.

There are many of benefits from getting a good massage. The physical benefits include decreased pain, greater flexibility, improved immune function, faster healing, increase in endorphins, decreased depression and anxiety and lowered blood pressure from blissful relaxation…

And nothing feels as heavenly or can make you as happy as a really good massage…

Asking the right questions can mean the difference between a frustrating waste of time and a really wonderful experience.

How To Get The Best Out Of Your GoPro

You’ve finally convinced yourself in throwing out your old videocam and getting a GoPro. Congratulations! Are you ready to make the most of it? Well, seeing hundreds of mind-blowing videos online can be nerve wrecking especially if your friends look like pros using their GoPros and going to forums might give you a breakdown with all the technical jargon. That said, there are some nifty tricks and tips that you can follow to make the best out of your cam.

Get the Right Accessories

One of the important things to make your cam work for you is to choose the right accessories. There are literally hundreds of accessories out in the market today that you can choose from but the most important one is to get yourself a mount. Mounts can come in lots of varieties as you can buy a helmet, chest type or a tripod. Mounts are important as they keep the camera stable so you are able to produce smooth shots and the desired activities that you want. Helmet mounts are perfect for those POV shots and angles that might be too impossible for a regular camera to capture.

Another accessory that you should have are the filters. Filters can alter different photos or videos and can drastically improve your end product. Some of the filters can be expensive so look for one that you think you would likely use often. Another thing to keep in mind is to choose a waterproof one in case you suddenly feel the urge to take a dive.

Adjust the Menu Settings

Mucking the settings on your GoPro can lead to disastrous ends or to new and exciting beginnings. The automatic settings are there to help beginners use their video cameras easier. That said, adjusting the settings can also help you get just the perfect lighting or exposure that you are aiming for. Different resolutions work for different situations so trial and error is always present.

If you have the Hero4 Black or Silver, then you can use the advanced mode Protune to help you adjust the settings like the ISO or balance that you prefer. You can get neutral picture profiles as well as different color grades to make your photos or videos just the way you like.

Smartphone Apps

Another great way to get the best out of the GoPro is to download apps that are also compatible with your smartphone. Some apps allow you to preview the framing or control the settings so you don’t have to remove your camera just to adjust the setting.

For the 10 Best GoPro Tripods (Ultimate Review List) click here.

The Apartment Search

When you are apartment hunting, prepare a rental search plan. Be sure to know in advance what you want in an apartment and what you can live without. Decide in advance what areas of the city you could consider living in and make a list of apartment buildings within that perimeter.

Be sure to consider how far and how convenient it will be for you to travel to your job or your school or your family and friends. Also, how far is the apartment from stores, banks, hospitals, Church (if you attend) etc. If you have a car, make sure that there is adequate and convenient parking space 24/7. If you don’t drive make sure that there is close by public transportation.

Narrow your apartment locating to the size of rental unit you need. Studio apartment or one bedroom apartment or 2 BR apartment or more. Are you considering a furnished apartment or do you possible need a short term rental. If you are renting an apartment with a cat, dog, or other pet, you need to find out which apartments allow renting with pets and which do not. And, if they do allow pets, is there an additional security deposit required and if so, how much it is. Do you need an apartment complex with an exercise room or tennis courts or a pool or a recreation room, etc. or do you simply need and desire a nice clean and quiet pad.

Be realistic about what you can afford. Most apartment renting guides suggest that your rent should not be more than 25% to 30% of your income. This can vary depending on the income bracket, but be sure to be “real world” when budgeting additional apartment expenses such as heating and air conditioning and other utilities. If you fall short of affording the apartment of your choice, you might consider sharing an apartment with a roommate or roommates. Keep in mind that living with roommates can help you afford an upscale apartment or even, in some cases, luxury apartments, but it also has extreme restrictions to your privacy.

If you are familiar with the area and its neighborhoods, that gives you a distinct advantage for your apartment search. If, however, you are relocating to a new city or are not particularly knowledgeable about the city, you may want to contact an Apartment Locator or an Apartment Finder.

Once you narrow your search for apartments down to apts which suit your needs and desires you must be well organized & well prepared for your visits to the apartment complexes. When inspecting the rental premises be on the alert for unsafe conditions, excessive noise from traffic or playgrounds or neighbors. Visit the apartment building at night as well as the daytime hours. This will give you a more comprehensive understanding of the total space you will be residing in.

When you find the apartment complex that meets your renting needs and desires, you must be ready to put your “best foot forward” when you meet the apartment’s rental agent. This person may be the apartment building manager or a renting agent for the apts. You should prepare for this apartment renting interview in a professional and intelligent manner. Be advised that you are going to be asked to provide proof that you are a reliable prospective tenant. You are most likely going to need references from previous landlords. You may also be required by the apartments to show that you are gainfully employed and can afford the rent. Many landlords may require a credit report. If you are a first time renter and/or you have limited credit history you may be asked for references from family, friends, employer, professionals, etc. Likewise if you are renting with bad credit you will certainly want to come to the interview with a strong selection of references.

You are not necessarily restricted from apartment renting with less than perfect credit, but you may be required to put up an additional security deposit and possibly have a credit worthy person co-sign the apartment lease with you. Don’t unprepared for by requests for any of these things. Be sure to fill out a 100% truthful apartment rental application and come to the interview with references, proof of employment, credit information and any other renting resources at the ready. If you do have a credit history or renting history that might be detrimental, going through an apartment locator or apartment finder may be the best solution. They will present your history to the landlord for you, (make sure they are 100% truthful about it) and they can also be quite helpful and save you a lot of time because they most likely will know which landlords and apartments are more lenient in these circumstances. They can also advise you as to exactly what kinds of references and documents you might need to prove that you can be a responsible tenant.

You Have Located Your “Dream Apartment”

Once you have located your “dream apartment”, or as close to your perfect apartment as possible, now it is necessary to pay extremely close attention to the particulars of the rental agreement. An Apartment Lease is a contract between you and the landlord. Once agreed upon and signed by the tenant and the landlord, the rental lease creates obligations and restrictions for both parties. The most obvious covenants of the apartment lease are the length of the rental, (Six month lease, one year lease, two year lease, etc.) The amount of the security deposit, when the rent is due, who is responsible for what utilities. Also in that apartment lease, however, are stipulations, (sometimes in small print) that can cover a great variety of landlord and tenant obligations and restrictions. They can include, but are not limited to, the following:

o Maintenance of the apartment

o Care of the premises

o Cleanliness

o Insurance

o Governmental regulations

o Eminent Domain

o Nuisance and noise clauses

o Stipulations as to the circumstances whereby the landlord can enter the premises

o Use of Common Areas

o Keys and locks

o Loss or damage

o Parking

o Pets

o Plumbing

o What the landlord may do if the rent is in arrears

o What the tenant can do to bring the rent current before any kind of action might be started

o Non performance or breach of the contract by the renter

o Renter’s penalties in the event of early termination

o Circumstances which might cause the tenant or the landlord to break the lease prior to the end of the term

o Heat and other utilities

o Removal of goods

o Surrender or Non-Surrender of the premises

o Waivers of various obligations

o Prohibited reprisals

o Garbage disposal

o Recyclables

o And the list goes on and on and on.

Prospective tenants should read an Apartment lease thoroughly. Prospective apartment renters should understand everything that is contained in that lease and make an informed decision to be 100% accepting of all the provisions for both the tenant and the landlord, that you are positive that you can live up to your end of the bargain and that you are comfortable with the provisions on the landlord’s end.

If you do not understand every single clause of that apartment lease then do not sign it until you do understand it. If necessary and if possible, request assistance in interpreting the lease from a trusted source such as a knowledgeable friend or family member or employer or professional, or anyone else who can understand it and explain it to you. If necessary get legal advice. It can cost additional funds if you do not qualify for free legal assistance, but that additional cost might save you a ton of money and save you a ton of heartache and aggravation down the road.

If you do not agree with any of the provisions of that apartment lease and/or you feel that you can’t live up to the tenant’s obligations, or if you are not in agreement with any of the landlord’s rights under the agreement, then do not sign the lease until/or unless it can be changed to your satisfaction. If the apartment rental agreement cannot be amended to meet your needs and desires and comfort level then do not sign the lease and do not rent that apartment. The Apartment Rental agreement that you sign as a prospective tenant will not change once you become the actual tenant of that apartment.

Good luck in your apartment search and good luck in your new apartment.

For information on short term accommodation in Sydney click here.

How to Choose the Best Bird Watching Spotting Scopes

Bird watching spotting scopes can range in price from $200 to $5,000. So what is the difference between a cheap scope and an expensive one? The expense mostly is in the lens design and lens quality. Other features such as being waterproof, fogproof and shockproof also play into the price.

You may be wondering what makes a good bird watching spotting scope compared to any other spotting scope. These type of scopes are not used for looking at stars. You want a birding scope to see birds at long distances like viewing shorebirds or falcons in their nest on a cliff face. You need a scope to view details on birds that your bird watching binoculars cannot provide mostly because of the longer distance and inability to get closer.

Magnification is the first thing you want to consider in choosing your scope. Do not get a scope with a magnification lower than 15x because that is what your binoculars will provide. You typically do not want to go over 60x magnification on the high end because the field of view becomes very narrow and the image brightness deteriorates.

The objective lens is the next thing you want to consider. The larger the objective lens, the more light gathering capacity the scope will have and the brighter the bird images will appear. The only drawback is the bigger the objective lens, the heavier the scope and the higher the price will be for the scope.

You will want to look for a spotting scope that has high quality glass and lens coatings. Look for scopes with ED (extra-low dispersion) FL (Fluorite) HD (High Density) and/or APO (apochromatic) glass. These elements will provide you with an image of higher clarity, detail, and sharpness which in turn will reduce eyestrain.

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When using bird watching spotting scopes, you typically are out in the elements and not under the dry cover of a shelter. You need to get a scope that is both waterproof and fogproof. Look for scopes that are nitrogen or dry gas filled. It is also nearly impossible to not bump your scope either getting it out of your vehicle, carrying it over a slippery slope or the like. Look for shockproof scopes that come with rubber armoring to protect the unexpected bumps and collisions.

You will be given the choice, with most spotting scopes, to choose a straight or angled design. Straight scopes have the eyepiece aligned with the barrel whereas angled spotting scopes will have the eyepiece offset 45 or 90 degrees from the barrel. If you will be doing most of your birding from the car and have the scope mounted on the window, you will want a straight scope design. If you will be viewing mostly birds from above such as soaring raptors or cliff-viewing, then get an angled scope.

Think about how you will most often be using your spotting scope and what kind of situations or habitats you will be viewing birds. This will help you decide which design and what type of scope will best suits your needs and be most functional for your bird watching activities.

The Secret of Affordable Custom Kitchen Cabinetry

To the great surprise of many homeowners, it is possible to remodel a kitchen with affordable custom kitchen cabinetry. The phrase itself seems to be a contradiction in terms – affordable combined with custom cabinetry. Knowing the secret of how to find affordable custom kitchen cabinetry, however, permits you to fill your renovated kitchen with the beauty, durability and flexibility of high-end custom cabinetry for about the cost of stock cabinets in most home improvement stores.

Your reason for wanting custom kitchen cabinetry for your new kitchen might be:

  • Your preference for a particular wood
  • Your desire to have a specific wood finish
  • Wanting the beauty of the highest quality custom kitchen cabinetry
  • Wanting the durability of the best cabinet construction
  • Need for flexibility in cabinet sizes
  • Desire to include organizational inserts
  • Desire to cover specialty appliances with matching wood
  • Desire for custom placement of traditional items
  • Desire for counters either higher or lower than standard

A significant challenge in planning and designing a kitchen remodel is matching the project budget with the cost of all of the items you want to include. Custom kitchen cabinetry is commonly the first desire homeowners must sacrifice in the struggle to keep the project on budget. These homeowners, however, do not know the secret of affordable custom kitchen cabinetry.

Here is the secret you need to know to fill your remodeled kitchen with affordable custom kitchen cabinetry. Work with a very good local cabinetmaker to design your remodel and have your cabinetmaker customize high quality stock cabinets to meet your needs. All of the reasons you have for believing you need custom kitchen cabinetry can be built by a good cabinetmaker with high-end stock cabinets.

A good cabinetmaker can help you plan your new kitchen cabinetry in a way that involves the least modification. Next, your cabinetmaker will work with you to determine the best places for cabinets you want modified in some way. Then, the cabinetmaker will take your stock cabinets to his/her workshop and customize your stock cabinets into the custom kitchen cabinetry you thought was only a dream.

Working together, you and your cabinetmaker will be able to evaluate all of the stock cabinetry options available to you. You can then purchase the best cabinets available in the wood and the finish you want. You will be able to make your selection with full knowledge of the cost of having the cabinets customized for your remodel.

Your cabinetmaker will work with stock cabinets to re-size cabinets as necessary. The work will be invisible. When installed nobody who sees your cabinets will know you did not spend a fortune on custom kitchen cabinetry.

Your cabinetmaker will also work with you to find or build the inserts needed to organize your drawers and to make everything in a cabinet easily accessible. S/he will design, build and install matching covers for appliances. Floor mounted cabinets can be modified to the desired height.

When your cabinetmaker completes his/her work and installs your new cabinets, no one will know you used affordable custom kitchen cabinetry. Everyone will think you spent a fortune on your beautiful cabinets. What is more, you might have unique specialty cabinets designed by your cabinetmaker to meet your particular needs and wants.

Some cabinetmakers also have purchasing agreements with cabinet manufacturers and distributors that further reduce the cost of your kitchen by allowing them to buy stock cabinets at a deep discount and pass the discount on to you. You never need to tell your friends and neighbors that you actually paid about the same amount for your customized cabinets as they paid for lower quality stock cabinets. You can achieve this kind of savings when you remodel or renovate because you know the secret of buying affordable custom kitchen cabinetry.

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